Police called to tree protest as nesting bird sparks sit-in

Freedom Road resident protests against tree felling.
Freedom Road resident protests against tree felling.
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THIS is the moment a Sheffield resident scaled a huge tree in protest after a tree surgeon tried to cut it back while a bird was nesting in the branches.

Police were called to the stand-off yesterday morning in Freedom Road, Walkley, after Fred Vellacot climbed the tree and refused to budge.

Residents launched a campaign in March to stop the 100-year-old ash being cut down and thought they’d agreed a compromise to have the tree cut back.

But they say when they realised there was a crow nesting in it they decided to take action when a surgeon arrived to go ahead with the job.

Under Section One of the Wildlife & Countryside Act (1981), it is an offence to intentionally damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird while it is in use or being built.

Freedom Road resident Keith Ainsworth said: “Residents are concerned about the steady disappearance of trees in Walkley.

“It used to be very leafy around here. I’ve lived here for 20 years and they just seem to be cutting trees down for the most minor of reasons.

“The attitude is that trees are a nuisance because they have to be maintained and cause mess so the decision-makers are quite amenable to speedily reaching for a chainsaw.

“Cutting the tree back when there is a bird nesting in it is against the law and the law is there to protect wildlife.”

Fellow resident Vicky Romegoux, 60, also of Freedom Road said: “The crow and the tree is a feature of this road – it marks the seasons.”

Keith, 52, said residents only found out the tree was to be felled in March when they received a letter from CE Electric, telling them the road would be closed for two days so overhead power cables could be maintained.

But he said when they realised the street didn’t have any overhead power cables, they queried the road closure with the council.

They discovered the tree, growing next to an electricity substation on land owned by CE Electric, was to be felled because it was dangerous.

A CE Electric spokeswoman said the wrong courtesy letter had been sent out by mistake and apologised for the confusion.

She said the tree had to be removed because of safety concerns and added the work would be carried out at a later date and police would be attending.